INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power used the final lap of qualifying Friday to move past five drivers and take the pole for the IndyCar Grand Prix.
The Australian will start from the No. 1 spot for the 64th time in his career after going 1 minute, 9.7664 seconds on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. He’s now three short of tying Mario Andretti’s IndyCar career record after knocking defending series champ and points leader Alex Palou to second after the Spaniard went 1:09.8090.
“I feel so privileged to get so close to him. I never thought I’d get there,” Power said, referring to Andretti. “It would be such an honor to match him or surpass him.”
First, though, the Team Penske driver has bigger goals for Saturday — like winning his first race of the season. Power has won this race four of the previous five times he started from the top qualifying spot, and he’s trying to extend Chevrolet’s dominance this season.
There have been five drivers to win poles this season and the Chevy-powered cars have won the first four races.
Not surprisingly, six of the first seven drivers on the 27-car grid also use Chevy engines.
The one exception is Palou, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I wanted to get pole but I knew we always lack a little bit on used reds, perhaps because I don’t have a lot of experience,” the 25-year-old said. “But I’m not surprised that it’s Will on the pole.”
Two-time race winner Josef Newgarden, Power’s teammate, starts third after limiting himself to one hard lap in the third and final qualifying group. Conor Daly of Ed Carpenter Racing will start a season-best fourth on his home track.
“It’s much nicer to fight with these guys than not. As WP says all the time these are ome of the vbest drivers in the wrold and it’s so close, it’s insane how small the gap is. We put three solid runs together. It would be nice to be on the front row but we one step there and that’s all it takes.”
And after Roman Grosjean and Graham Rahal traded barbs over a crash at Barber Motorsports Park, Grosjean will start directly in front of Rahal. Grosjean qualified 10th, the outside of Row 5. Rahal starts 12th.
Nobody was more upset about their qualifying position than defending race winner Rinus VeeKay or six-time series champ Scott Dixon.
VeeKay was strong in practice and led his first-round qualifying group — until the final minutes when he switched to the reds and faded from first to eighth with a fast lap of 1:09.9550. He’ll start 15th on Saturday.
“I’m just very, very confused right now,” the Dutch driver said.
Dixon, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner from New Zealand, has missed the second round of qualifying in three straight races and this might have been his poorest performance of all. He finished 11th in the 13-driver group with a time of 1:10.1694. He’ll start 21st.
“It’s just a different car every time we go out so you just try to adjust for that,” he said. “Honestly, it sucks right now. We’ve got to figure it out.”
“That’s the fastest time I’ve run around here,” seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said after qualifying 27th with a lap of 1:11.4599. “Unfortunately, it just wasn’t fast enough.”
DRIVE FOR FIVE
While most of the chatter around Gasoline Alley about a remarkable fifth victory has focused on four-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet is chasing two milestones Saturday.
The first four races this season have all been won by Chevrolet-powered drivers. If VeeKay defends last year’s IndyCar GP crown, the engine-manufacturer would capture its fifth straight win of the season and collect its 100th victory since it rejoined the series in 2012.
And if Josef Newgarden, another Chevy driver, wins for the third time this season he would collect $500,000 for Team Penske and an additional $500,000 that will be donated to charity as the first driver to win this season on an oval, road course and street course.
SETTING THE PACE
Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was acquired in a midseason trade from the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, is getting a crash course in Indy culture.
Before Saturday’s race, the 22-year-old emerging star will turn laps in IndyCar’s two-seat car piloted by 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti. Haliburton also is expected to meet defending series champion Alex Palou of Spain for a jersey swap.
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